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The Masculine Preconditions Of Individualism, The Indo-Europeans, And The Modern Hegelian Concept Of Collective Freedom

(Traduit en français)


Libertarian freedoms are not incompatible with a strong commitment to in-group white identity politics. On the contrary, Europeans can preserve their attachment to individual liberties only by living inside nations with a strong sense of collective ancestry in opposition to mass immigration.

This is hard to understand because individualism by its nature is a form of separation or differentiation of the self from the surrounding environment, from that which is external, the I from the not-I. It is hard because the individualism of the West is always contrasted to the collectivism of the Rest.

Some say the “idea that the individual is sovereign” is a “miracle”. This is inaccurate wording. Europeans became individuals through a long drawn out effort, not in one fell swoop or in one historical period.  The detachment of the self from the ensemble of the surrounding world, including one’s own body, manifested itself in different degrees by different sides of the human personality in multiple cultural ways. There is a biological starting point, however, a necessary biological precondition, which consists in the fact that a man is not born a man but must become a man. Throughout history, across all cultures, men became men only by proving their masculinity in risky contests with the surrounding environment and with other adversarial men. It is this struggle to become a man in the eyes of other men that brings forth the conscious differentiation of the male ego from the enveloping womblike environment. But this differentiation cannot be seen as the first cultural sign of an emerging human personality; it is only a necessary precondition, a very important one, in making us realize that we must avoid looking at some religious experience, some intellectual or artistic movement, for the first ushering of individualism. We must look instead for what is today seen as the least civilized aspect of human nature: the contesting and violent struggle of men to become men.

This struggle for a  male identity is only a precondition, an always present one, but not a sufficient condition, for the appearance of self-awareness, the emergence of the first inklings of human individuality. The first signs of individualism are to be found in history only with the horse riding Indo-European aristocratic warriors who came storming out of the Pontic Steppes in the fourth millennium BC. Indo-European societies were uniquely ruled by aristocratic men living in a state of permanent mobility and adversity for whom the highest value in life was heroic struggle to the death for pure prestige. It was out of this struggle for renown by aristocratic men seeking recognition from their aristocratic peers that the separation and freedom of humans from the undifferentiated world of nature and the undifferentiated world of collectivist-despotic societies was fostered.

This struggle for recognition against the biological fear of death in the name of glory and honour, which are immaterial goals, deeply interiorized within the ego of the contesting hero, nurtured among men an awareness that each hero is not just a body with appetites and limbs but also a character, an individual with an immaterial psyche that is risked in battle, and with a thymos that is “spirited” and causes intense emotions, and with a noos that represents a separate faculty of thinking. While the distinction between the soul, the intellect, and the bodily organs, are not well crystallized in Homer’s Iliad, individuals with outstanding feats associated with their particular names are beginning to be recognized, and not just in the Iliad, but in all the earliest sagas, myths, and heroic accounts of Indo-Europeans. We find in these heroic tales individuals with private grudges, private frustrations, and private internal spaces, even if we have to wait for Plato to witness a clear distinction between bodily appetites, thymotic emotions, and mental faculties. In Oriental societies only the despotic ruler boasts of his deeds and his power, and even then only as a messenger of mysterious gods ruling over humans, unlike the gods of Indo-Europeans, who are human-like with human attributes and flaws.

The first distinctions between the I and the not-I come through the deeds of prehistoric male aristocrats ceaselessly contesting with each other for recognition. This Faustian Man stands behind the restless and expansionary energies of European conquerors and behind the cognitive maturation of European peoples. It is the active subjective agent behind evolutionary trends toward more rationality and more intelligence, increased differentiation of social functions, against traditional superstition and ignorance, the rise of the modern sciences, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. We can see early on in history how the individualism of aristocrats was democratized in the Greek hoplite citizen soldiers who defeated the Persian invaders, the independent farmers who owned their land and “suffers no master, speaks his due, fights his own battles, and leaves an imprint of self-reliance and non-conformity, a legacy of independence that is the backbone of Western society” [1]. This legacy continued through the small holding farmers who made up the Roman legions and fought as citizens, the free peasants of Medieval Europe with their self-governing communes, to the citizens of modern states demanding representation.

This individualism is now faulted for much that is wrong in the West today, including the liberal bourgeois philosophy that came to justify it in the modern era. It is said that liberalism prioritizes the abstract individual, regardless of race, nationality, and sexual orientation. Many on the Alt Right, followers of Alexander Dugin, to be sure, are calling for a Western world that is more in line with the way non-European societies are organized, with their authoritarian governments and strong collectivist values. But this is impossible. Europeans are innately individualist. This does not mean that their liberalism inherently precludes them from recognizing the importance of collective identities, shared values, and ancestries. A few decades ago all the settlers states of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and America were full blown liberal states with strong collective identities in open exclusion of non-European outsiders. These settler states, as well as the nations of Europe, were all conceived as nations with a strong ethnic identity, an identifiable territory, a language, myths and symbols, and common ethnic lineage.

At the same time, Carl Schmitt’s assessment in the 1930s that liberal states have an inherently weak understanding of their collective political identity cannot be denied. European liberals wrongly imagine that their nation states were created through contractual arrangements by abstract individuals without deadly contests against outsiders and without a strong ethnic identity. Liberal theory has a progressive inclination, Utopian hope, for a world in which all peoples will peacefully come together in pursuit of their natural right to life, liberty, and comfort. It imagines a world in which there will be no in-groups and no out-groups, in which the friend-enemy distinction, which Schmitt viewed as inherent to political relations between nations, will somehow vanish.

Carl Schmitt: The Philosopher of Conflict

But a distinction should be made between the Anglo-American version of Western liberalism, which emphasizes “negative liberty,” and the Germanic model of liberalism, which emphasizes “positive liberty”. The Anglo version is more libertarian in focusing on individual agents and a “minimalist” state that concentrates primarily on the security of individuals and their freedom to engage in contractual arrangements without obstacles or constraints imposed from above by state bureaucrats who think they know what is best for citizens. The Germanic version admires the heroic ethos of aristocratic freedom as well as the role of the state in encouraging the realization of one’s highest potentialities. It accepts the value of negative freedoms —  freedom of thought and assembly, equal treatment under the law — but without neglecting the fact that in the modern era individuals from different ethnic groups were coalesced into distinctive nations with shared collectivist values. The Germanic version recognizes that humans have a need to belong to a group, a Volk, and that the state is the one agent capable of ensuring this need.

This German conception was once very influential in Europe and the United States, but after WWI and WWII this model was thoroughly discredited. Meanwhile, around the same time, the Anglo model came to embrace the notion of positive liberty (that the state should play a role in the nurturing and sustaining the cohesiveness of the citizens making up the nation) from a leftist, Keynesian perspective, while still adhering to the principles of negative liberty. Among those associated with this Germanic conception, I would identify Hegel as the thinker who offered the best argument reconciling the tendency among Europeans for individual liberty with the need humans have for communitarian values. Hegel, it seems to me, was the one thinker who recognized both the value of negative liberties and the need for shared values or for “positive” freedoms.

Conventional versus Post-Conventional Morals

Europeans will never become tribal and collectivist in the manner and degree of non-Europeans. Having an individual identity, an awareness of one’s inner being, that one’s actions can be causally dependent on one’s free will rather than on preceding events, that one can set oneself apart from the conventions of the time, free from the blind determinations of nature, as an individual capable of rational self-mastery, is historically intrinsic to Europeans. It is this self-awareness that has made possible the saying of “I” so common in Western culture. Europeans, and only Europeans, have nurtured an ability to turn inside their own consciousness and be aware that they have an “I” that is at the center of their inner being. When Europeans say “I” they apprehend their unique identity as an “I” that is inside them and that is different and apart from everything that is outside.

Non-Europeans have acquired a certain degree of individualism under the massive influence of the West, but their “I” is less fully developed, and their history is utterly lacking in cultural resources exhibiting a reflective consciousness that can make clear analytical distinctions between the inner and the outer worlds.  This fundamental difference between Europeans and non-Europeans is implicitly obvious in the moral developmental theory of Lawrence Kohlberg. This theory was accused of providing an “ethnocentric” outlook that reflected the experience of Europeans from childhood to adulthood in their moral development, rather than the experience of human beings generally. The formative process in Kohlberg’s three levels of moral development, pre-conventional, conventional, and postconventional, is about the ability of individuals to achieve independent rational judgement from external objects, from one’s self-interest, and from one’s social order and authorities. The conventional stage is about meeting the moral expectations of the individual’s family, in-group, or nation, as morals that are true in their own right, regardless of consequences for outsiders. The moral attitude at this level is one of conformity to the expectations of the in-group, maintaining and justifying its morals. “Good” or “right” moral behaviour consists of showing respect for authority, maintaining the given order for its own sake.

Only individuals in the West rose to the post-conventional stage. In this stage moral action is defined according to democratically examined standards. In the words of Jurgen Habermas, “right is defined by the decision of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to logical comprehensiveness, universality, and consistence” [2]. While Kohlberg was concerned with the development of individuals from childhood to adulthood in the West, Jurgen Habermas applied this theory to the history of the West, noticing that it was with the Enlightenment, best articulated in Kan’ts writings on morals, that Europeans were able to fully transcend the conventions surrounding them, to which they had hitherto been committed out of duty and obedience to traditions. Relying on the capacity of reason to legislate principles out of itself independently of all external forces, Europeans were able to come up with abstract principles, equality for human rights and respect for all humans as individual persons with dignity and rights. These principles were said to be universally true for humans in general irrespective of nationality, sex, and race. But critics charged that Kohlberg and Habermas were ethnocentric in presuming that Europeans had managed to develop a universal ethics for humanity when in fact non-Europeans had their own moral precepts. These critics were correct that the Kohlberg-Habermas theory applied to European individuals only, but they were wrong in not realizing that this theory did not apply to non-Europeans precisely because non-Europeans were still ethnocentric and traditional in their moral outlook and had never been able to distance themselves rationally from their own surrounding culture.

Only Whites developed a post-conventional moral outlook by employing their reason to come up with principles that could hold for humanity’s interest rather than principles that were limited and tainted by the conventions and interests of one’s ingroup. Only Whites began to propose principles about what is good for humanity and the world, and therefore only Whites transcended the ethnocentrism that is inherent to all conventional moralities. But: Whites were ethnocentric in presuming that non-Whites could transcend their ingroup ethnocentric attachments without realizing that only they had developed a universal morality that was universally true only within their own society, and that was thus not a morality that could be de-contextualized from the Western culture out of which it emerged.

We should avoid thinking that this post-conventional moral agent is somehow an autonomous ego hovering above society, rather than an individual who was socialized to rely on his reflective rational capacities by a uniquely Western order that encourages individuals to think for themselves. In Kohlberg’s studies, not all adults (but a minority) develop a post conventional stand; many retain a “law-and-order” orientation with the attitude that right behaviour consists in showing respect for authority and doing one’s duty. But while these individuals tend to be identified as “traditionalist” or “conservative,” they are loyal and respectful of Western liberal laws and liberal conventions, and should not be confused with conservatives in non-European lands. The Hegelian approach I will defend below recognizes that conventional morality remains a very powerful “positive” morality that is natural to human beings and which should be formally integrated into all liberal states as a healthy in-group attitude against a post-conventional morality that has been corrupted and globalized by cosmopolitan elites. This does not mean negating post-conventional morality as it was understood by Kant and Enlightenment thinkers, peaceful co-existence of nations with their own unique ethnic identities and heritage. This post-conventional morality has to be situated within nation-state members of Western civilization from a Hegelian perspective.

The Exceptional “I” of Europeans

This capacity to free oneself from the conventions of one’s society is merely one of the ways individualism has affected every aspect of Western culture. In Homeric man there is a latent awareness, but still nebulous articulation, of the human personality as an “I” that is not the plaything of irrational or mysterious forces but is capable of some deliberation among alternative choices. Decisions are indeed shaped by the gods but the Olympian gods “carry the graceful stamp of an aristocratic society […] when a god associates with a man, he elevates him, and makes him free, strong courageous, certain of himself […] far removed from the mysteries of chthonic darkness and ecstasy” [3].  In the next archaic period of Greek history, between 650 and 500 BC, we see characters becoming more conscious of their personality, with the rise of the lyric poets, Sappho and Archilochus, in their regular use of phrases expressing “a more precise appreciation of the self,” the “inwardly felt emotions” of the poet [4]. With the tragedians of the next generation, Aeschylus and Sophocles, we witnessed for the first time in history the interpretation of human action in the light of individual choice: “what am I to do?” This process of detachment from the ensemble of external forces and determinations is taken one step further by the characters in Euripides, who ask whether their actions were just in a more realistic setting than the solemn ostentation found in Aeschylus.

A history of individualism in all its expressions in literature, both in depth and complexity of characters, as well as in the persistent emergence of new styles of writing, has yet to be written. The same is true for painting, philosophy, law, political theory, historical writing, and scientific knowledge. No one in our universities wants to talk about the immense originality of Europeans because it is an embarrassment to the incredible poverty of multiculturalism. A history of sculpture alone would have to acknowledge the amazing breakthrough of the Greeks in detaching themselves from the unchanging styles of the Orient and making the discovery of foreshortening, in building “in marble and with a splendour and nobility never known before,” and in learning to seize, towards the end of the fourth century, “the individual character of a physiognomy” [5], a style that would be advanced by the Roman realistic portraiture of private individuals “in which every line, crease, wrinkle, and even blemish was ruthlessly recorded” [6].

The flaw in the existing interpretations of Western individualism is that they simplify the historical origins and meaning of this word by restricting its appearances to one field of existence or one period of history. Ever since Jacob Burckhardt in The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy  was published in 1860, numerous interpreters have come forward announcing the one factor, the one epoch, responsible for the rise of individualism. Burckhardt, a Swiss historian admired by Nietzsche, saw in the Italians of the Renaissance a people “who have emerged from the half-conscious life of the race and become themselves individuals.” He saw in this individualism both the self-assertion of powerful public personalities freed from external frameworks of traditional authority as well as a individuals preferring self-expression as a private citizens. While this definition is quite broad it does not embrace “the
utmost heterogeneity of meanings” Max Weber detected in the term individualism. A main reason for this complex variety of (sometimes conflicting) meanings is that Western individualism is hardly a modern phenomenon.

One challenge to Burckhardt’s thesis was Colin Morris’s The Discovery of the Individual, 1050-1200 (1972), which argued that “the Western view of the value of the individual owes a great deal to Christianity.”

A sense of individual identity and value is implicit in belief in a God who has called each man by name, who has sought him out as a shepherd seeks his lost sheep. Self-awareness and a serious concern with inner character is encouraged by the conviction that the believer must lay himself open to God, and be remade by the Holy Spirit. From the beginning, Christianity showed itself to be an ‘interior” religion (10-11).

This Christian emphasis, Morris believed, came into full fruition in the high Middle Ages with the resurgence of city life, cathedrals, and universities. But in the estimation of Aaron Gurevich’s The Origins of European Individualism (1995), a latent conception of the human personality can already be seen in the representation of the hero in the pagan Germanic, Scandinavian, Icelandic, and Irish epics and mythical stories of the early Middle Ages. In such sagas as The Lesson of the High One, Edda, Beowulf, The Wasting Sickness of Cú Chulainn, the very idea of the hero bespeaks of accomplishments performed by a particular name, which the myths seek to immortalize. The most important thing in the life of a hero in these stories are his acts as an individual and whether they bring him glory and reputation. These were indeed the tales of an aristocratic culture, of the meetings, games, and feasting of kings, chieftains, clients, and warriors. These chieftains, together with their poets, singers, musicians, and the free men who farmed and herded, were obviously strongly in-group oriented by our standards. But Gurevich, who draws on prior interpretations, is correct in observing that “the individual in the society of pagan Europe was very definitely not swallowed up within the group — there was a fairly wide scope for self-discovery and self-assertion” [7].

Bio-Masculine Foundations of Individualism

In Uniqueness I traced this aristocratic individualism back the pre-historic Indo-Europeans (IEs). The IEs created a new type of aristocratic society in the sense that “some men,” not just the king, were free to deliberate over major issues affecting the group, as well as free to strive for personal recognition. The material origins of this aristocratic individualist ethos are to be found in the unique pastoral lifestyle of the IEs, their original domestication and riding of horses, their invention of wheeled vehicles in the fourth millennium BC, together with the efficient exploitation of the “secondary products” of domestic animals (dairy products, textiles, harnessing), all of which gave IEs a more robust physical anthropology and the most dynamic way of life in their time. This horse-riding lifestyle included fierce competition for grazing rights, constant alertness in the defence of one’s portable wealth, and an expansionist disposition in a world where competing herdsmen were motivated to seek new pastures as well as tempted to take the movable wealth of their neighbours.

This lifestyle engendered “a greater aptitude for war”, a hyper-patriarchal, aristocratic, and masculine world-view religiously expressed in the veneration of the powers of Heaven, not just the Earth  — the Sky, the Storm, the Sun, Thunder and Lighting. Although in Uniqueness and Faustian Man I brought attention to the masculine character of IE society and the agonistic ethos of aristocrats, I did not connect in a substantial way the purely male component of this agonistic drive and how this male inclination for contest was heightened in IE aristocratic society, providing the preconditions thereby for the discovery of the self and the emergence of consciousness itself. With all the talk about “neo-masculinity” I have been thinking that the greater male disposition for aggression and contest, to demonstrate one’s worthiness as a man through fighting against male adversaries, facing the dangers around one’s environment in struggle against the fear of death, the fear that one is not man enough, should be seen in light of the peculiar aristocratic ethos of IEs. After doing a search on books about the meaning of masculinity, I came up with Walter J. Ong’s book, Fighting for Life. Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness, published in 1981. What makes this book singularly valuable and directly relevant to my arguments is that Ong believes that it was the male struggle for recognition, as a male among other males, that fostered the mental introspection and interiority that  is required for a concept of the self to become a possibility in a world in which all living beings are otherwise fixated and consumed by the world outside themselves and by their own bodily appetites.

The starting point of Ong’s argument can be found in this passage:

Need for the adversative is common to all human beings, male and female. But by and large through the entire animal kingdom, among infrahuman, as well as the human species, conspicuous or expressed in adversativeness is a larger element in the lives of males than of females, for reasons relating both to the development of individual males and to the evolution of species…When human consciousness appears, both sexes contribute to its growth, but the male contribution is effected largely through a kind of ritual contest. Females can also be highly competitive. But their competitiveness seldom if ever shows in the conspicuous, all-out, one-to-one ritual or ceremonial contest found among conspecific males, such as the intensive, protracted battles of stags or rams or of male Siamese fighting fish. Paradoxically, intraspecific male fighting becomes more ritual or ceremonial at the same that it becomes more strenuous (p. 51).

Ong spends much of the book showing how men and women are crucially different in their agonistic behavior and how males developed an identity apart from their surroundings, a consciousness of themselves as beings with their own goals and identity, because of their absolute need to set themselves against their early boyhood identification with the feminine in order to become real men in the biological sense. This is the first time I will quote so many passages in one sequence because I believe that what Ong says is possibly the most insightful assessment of the role of masculinity in the development of consciousness. It should be said right away that Ong is a Westerner and that his entire analysis of this intense need of males to prove their manhood, as I will show later, is inevitably permeated by the unique historical experience of males in the West.

From the beginning of an individual’s mammalian male’s life, his masculinity involves living in a state of adversity, in an environment which, despite its supportiveness and his utter dependence on it, is nevertheless to a degree permanently hostile…[T]he male embryo must at a very early stage in its development begin to manufacture and testosterone from its own gonads ‘to produce masculinity and to offset the possible effect of circulating maternal hormones’ (p. 64).

The male mammalian organism must from the start react against its environment. Thus masculinity has a certain resistance to being nurtured: for a male, being nurtured has special dangers. At its biological and historical source, the male’s vocation is not acceptance but change. Again, masculinity means differentiation (p. 65).

The young male is very feminine in significant ways, and necessarily so, because of his earliest maternal environment. After initial identification with the feminine, the boy must grow away from ‘the feminine identification that resulted from his first encounter with his mother’s female body [sex] and feminine qualities’ (p. 65).

If stress or insecurity means an uneasy relationship with one’s environment, males are insecure because they are  in more constant and complex conflict with their environments than are females — clinical data show this to be true from the age of two, at least, and most likely true from birth, as, in the way just explained, it is even before birth. Boys refuse more often to obey, precipitate more fights, refuse more frequently and steadfastly to learn in school…(p. 68).

The human male is beset with the psychological as well as physical problems of proving his masculinity, which means in effect proving he is not female […] Though they may resist acknowledging the fact openly, human males find themselves in stress situations not only because of their biological insecurity but also because psychologically they must set themselves off from a backdrop of femininity that has not had to establish itself but is simply there, a given. As a boy, the young human male most ‘prove himself a man,’ differentiate himself from this given ambiance in which he finds himself. He must prove he is not a ‘sissy’ (sister, girl). Anatomical differences do not suffice, since the fact is that all boys started out in the feminine world. How are they to be psychologically sure, consciously or unconsciously, that they have ever left that world, that they have really achieved the differentiation that it is every male’s business to achieve? They must cut girls out of their lives, scorn feminine sources of comfort and safety, do things that they hope their mothers and sisters cannot do. They have ‘to fight it’ — ‘it’ being anything that seems easy. They must discover or invent risks. Accusations of ‘effeminacy’ normally strike the male heart with terror: you have not had the strength to become yourself (70).

Two kinds of behavior connected with human male insecurity can be noted here. The first is the need felt by males, particularly young boys, to fight each other. The second is the tendency of males to be ‘loners’ more than females are, and the somewhat paradoxically related tendency of males to form all-male groups, the male ‘bonding pattern’…Human males tend to feel an environment, including other individuals of the species, as a kind of againstness, something to be fought with an altered. Environment is feminine, and women typically find they can rely on it as it is or comes to them (76-7).

But why the predilection of males for fighting other males in particular? In the case of human beings, what sort of psychological satisfaction is achieved by a young boy who succeeds in standing up against another boy? For the only adversary who can enable one to establish male identity is another male…[H]e must face the threat of masculinity within himself by facing it in others like himself. To be a man, the male must be able to face insecurity, for that is what maleness implies — existence in an environment that is both needed and hostile (78).

Masculine identity among higher animals often entails intensive distancing of one individual from another, and, in the case of reflective human beings, of personal self from personal self […] What is important for the male is that the contest be formally competitive (and thus at one level, abstractly analytical) and of high intensity. Males viewers of television sports like the instant replays, which enable them to analyze the formal structure of the intense agonistic activity (79-80).

The bonding pattern in male groups is well known: it consists of closeness and distancing  simultaneously. It includes banter, ‘ribbing,’ constant psychological pushing, shoving, swatting (among young males, the pushing, showing , swatting are physical as well. Thus each assures himself that everybody is a friend though at the same time everybody is on his own and keeping everbody else at arm’s length — an admiring arm’s length (81).

Male boding groups are associations of loners. The male values a companion whom he can stand up against and who can stand up against him: each receives assurance from the other’s decently adversative stance, for it reminds him of his own needs and resources. The masculine intense friendly aggression is foreign to most women’s experience (81).

The war party, where this sort of bonding functions in anticipation of action as well as in retrospect, is a typically male phenomenon (81).

All environment is enveloping, womblike. The male craves freedom, and for many males the symbolic independence of all environment which one establishes by setting up as a loner, with occasional participation in a bonded gang of loners, is the ultimate accomplishment and happiness (82).

The predisposition to individual psychological distancing evinced by males even when closely bound in groups is paralleled by a male predisposition to leave the group entirely and to become a ‘loner’ (82).

Masculinity in this sense means becoming something different, separation from origins, a certain kind of getting away, abstraction, transcendence. Hence, as has been seen, the haunting male insecurity: born of women, how can I be sure that I am not what I came from, that I am not a woman, too? I have to do something difficult, something that only a man can do, to prove that I am not. Born to be different from my source of life, I must live with stress and must invent stress to assure myself that I can perform (112-113).

Masculinity is thus a testimony both to human insufficiency and to human potential, to a certain ability to move beyond insufficiency (114).

Masculinity is differentiation here, too, differentiation from one’s own unconscious, which is antecedent to one’s consciousness. Consciousness arises out of the unconscious by differentiation and thus has a masculine quality…For threat, danger, can be alluring to the male: it provides the stress he seeks, the occasion to prove his masculinity again, his ability to cope with insecurity (115).

What makes Ong’s study all the more interesting is that almost all the examples he draws on to demonstrate how the “adversativeness” of males found deep expression in the literature, religion, sports, science and logic produced by humans are Western. This is so apparent that Ong himself admits from the beginning of his book that the obsession with “polemic, hostility, confrontation tactics, clashes of personalities, competition, games” and “other adversative manifestations” is indeed to be found mostly among Europeans from ancient Greek times.

But the Greeks seem to have made more careful use of adversativeness than did other cultures, both as an analytical tool and as an operational intellectual procedure […] By contrast, Chinese culture minimized dispute, thought of rhetoric as serving propriety and harmony, downplayed individual difference in favor of conformity. (21, 22).

The experts he relies on singularly identify Western culture for its adversativeness, a point I also made in Uniqueness. This fact strains Ong’s thesis that adversativeness in human cultures generally can be understood in terms of the biological obsession of males to prove their masculinity through contest. I agree with Ong’s bio-masculine foundations of cultural disputation. I also agree with him that a purely sociobiological approach which reduces human behavior to mere survival cannot say anything about how this adversativeness fostered in human behavior a disposition to value honor over material inclinations, a disposition that requires for its understanding psychological (and, I would say, philosophical) analysis, for it “transcends the biological,” although it is “tie in with it” (20).  But Ong leaves hanging the crucial question about why European culture, in its literature, art, logic, rhetoric, has exhibited this polemical, agonistic impulse to a far higher degree. He knows, too, that in Western culture one detects a “greater and greater interiorization of consciousness through history noted by Hegel,” the development of the concept of the person and the “I”. But he never asks: why in the West, and singularly in the West?

The Indo-European Aristocratic Origins of Individualism

Fighting by aristocratic egos is the key to understanding the origins of individualism and the first “Western” society in history. The aristocratic life style of Indo-Europeans fostered a type of man who developed a consciousness of his pursuit of an immaterial end, an awareness of his obsession to be recognized by another conscious male of his ability to be a man in overcoming the biological fear of death for the sake of pure prestige. What Hegel called a “struggle to the death for pure prestige” over and against the most powerful biological drives humans have for self-preservation and comfort, can only make historical sense in relation to the only society in history in which some men lived a lifestyle where such a struggle was seen as the most valued form of male affirmation. The only society in which this struggle for pure prestige was possible was the society of prehistoric Indo-Europeans, because this was the first, and the only, culture ruled by free aristocrats in which men had the opportunity to prove themselves worthy as aristocratic men, in distinction to non-European societies where only one man, the despot, was free, and where members of the upper class were subservient both to the despot and to their gods. To be an aristocrat one had to demonstrate one’s capacity for freedom, one’s ability to differentiate oneself from the others as a particular hero. The master is the male who masters his fear of death and the slave is the male who gives in to this fear for the sake of preservation. It is in the risking of one’s life for the sake of recognition by another consciousness that males first exhibit some awareness of themselves as beings who can self-determine their actions and become aware of their subjectivity in distinction to the world around them.   The European “I” — most famously associated with Descartes’s announcement  “I think, therefore I am” — makes its first appearance in the persona of the aristocratic IE warrior.

I identify the pre-historic society of aristocratic IEs beginning around 2500 BC, through to the Feudal Middle Ages, as the one society in which this battle for a pure immaterial end, recognition by one’s aristocratic peers, could take place.  The Iliad, Beowulf, Song of Roland, the Early Irish Myths and Sagas, are the earliest expressions of the first appearance of individuals becoming conscious of having an inner self apart from the outer world of natural determinations. The pursuit of individual glory produced men with particular personalities, in contradistinction to the faceless collectivities of the non-European world, where there are no heroes except a despot fearful of open competition and always demanding subservience. It is in these heroic tales that we encounter for the first time in history identifiable personalities with names, family ties, and differentiated psychological dispositions.As Henry Osborn Taylor notes about the Icelandic Saga of Egil, the personal life and character of the hero, Egil, is identified in detail: “As a child he was moody, intractable, and dangerous…there was no great love between him and his father…” The characters in these tales are not stereo-typified heroes, ideal replicas without unique personalities, attributes and flaws.

While the Saga-folk include no cowards or men of petty manners, there is still great diversity of character among them. Some are lazy and some industrious, some quarrelsome and some good-natured, some dangerous, some forbearing, gloomy or cheerful, open-minded or biased, shrewd or stupid, generous or avaricious [8].

There is no question that this aristocratic lifestyle left an imprint on the genetics of IEs, selecting personality traits such as greater willingness to take risks and capable of distinguishing what was “inside” and what was “outside”. Of course, at this point in history when consciousness only makes its appearance in the decision of the aristocrat to fight for recognition, the subjective side of man manifested itself only in the form of self-assertiveness, through the pride and the haughtiness of free warriors. It would take some time  — in the work of Plato — before Europeans would distinctly recognize the faculty of the mind (nous) as a generator of thoughts in distinction to the appetites of the body and the “spirited” part of the soul comprising pride, indignation, and the need for recognition.

While males have a natural inclination for contesting their environment and other males in pursuit of an identity that differentiates them as men, this inclination is not enough to bring about a male who is conscious of his consciousness. To this day all non-Western peoples lack self-awareness of themselves as personalities capable of differentiating themselves from their surrounding world. They are still deeply enmeshed within collectivist values and kinship-based relations, even as Western modernization has loosened their kinship ties and taught them that scientific objectivity actually requires a subject capable of differentiating his inner self from the outer world. While we don’t have genetic studies showing that IEs were selected for individualistic behaviours, there is a massive literature showing that Europeans created institutions and relationships that allowed for individual expression and achievement.

Kevin MacDonald, drawing on Uniqueness and his own research in evolutionary psychology, shows that, from the earliest Indo-European societies to the European Middle Ages, the “basic social/cultural features of IE-derived societies remained remarkably the same“. The main cultural feature was the institution of the Männerbund, a voluntary war band held together by oaths of loyalty, camaraderie and a common self-interest in raiding and conquest of lands, in which social status, reputation and prestige, were openly determined by one’s heroic deeds and by the number of followers or clients one could afford.  Relations within war bands were “based on reciprocity, not despotism or kinship ties.” “Oath-bound contracts of reciprocal relationships were characteristic of IEs…These contracts formed the basis of patron-client relationships based on reputation — leaders could expect equitable loyal service from their followers and followers could expect equitable rewards for their service to the leader.” These relationships were “based on talent and accomplishment” rather than on kinship relations among close relatives.

This does not mean that European groups were merely the sum total of individuated aristocratic wills lacking any ethnic coherence and common culture. This is the politically correct argument that is found in such books as Patrick Geary’s The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe, “which is explicitly motivated,” as MacDonald writes, “to rationalize current displacement-level immigration to Europe.” While IE societies were more open to outsiders with individual merit, making social mobility more likely for talented members outside the clan and for lower ranked individuals, the outsiders who were incorporated into the expanding tribal confederacies of Iron Age Europe, into the Roman Empire, and within the feudal kingdoms of the Middle Ages, were invariably “closely related to the original founding stock.” They were European.

The Radicalizing Logic of Modern Individualism


With the formation of nation states in the modern era, as liberal institutions were emerging in the form of constitutional rule, freedom of religious expression, and representative bodies in which members of the bourgeoisie were included, rather than aristocrats only, this ethnic cohesion was reaffirmed along national lines. The idea that Western liberal nations were intended from the beginning to be based on civic values alone is a deliberate act of scholarly deception enacted by cultural Marxist academics. Liberal theorists in the nineteenth century did start to argue that citizenship should be extended to loyal ethnic minorities long inhabiting within the nation state. This theory of minority rights, however, was not conceived as an invitation card for millions of foreigners to acquire citizenship.

It is hard to deny that Western individualism has been characterized by a radicalizing logic that is currently destroying the very cultural fabric that has sustained this individualism, as Europeans seek to “liberate” themselves from any form of ethnic collective identity. Many on the New Right, including Traditionalists, think that this current situation is an inevitable consequence of individualism. The most influential recent critic of Western individualism, Alexander Dugin, insists that our current liberalism is not a recent aberration but an essential characteristic of the West against which all traditional cultures must take a stand. He writes that Western liberalism created the normative conditions for a humanity predisposed toward a world government in its “glorification of total freedom and the independence of the individual from any kind of limits, including reason, identity (social, ethnic, or even gender), discipline, and so on.” For him, liberalism = America’s current military and foreign policy = Western civilization = European history since ancient times = Evil. The idea that America is a propositional nation, says Dugin, is “in essence…an updated version and continuation of a Western universalism that has been passed from the Roman Empire, Medieval Christianity, modernity in terms of the Enlightenment, and colonization, up to the present-day” [9].

Problem with this interpretation is that it does not understand that, without free subjectivity the modern world would have never been produced, and the West would have never become the one civilization responsible for almost everything that is great in art, philosophy, science, exploration, and architecture. Without this subject, the Greeks would have never discovered the mind, invented prose writing, developed a sense of men as makers of history, a formal logic for the purpose of proper disputation between rational combatants, a geometry using concepts, points, lines, planes, angles, that are abstracted from physical objects and are thus freed from particular objects and thus freed to be used universally.

Catholics would have never created universities with a rational curriculum and a scholastic method with its emphasis on argument and counter argument directed at resolving contradictions unbecoming to men demanding consistency. The Cartesian method in which only the veracity of the thinking self is demonstrated, and only exact mathematical truths are accepted, while every prior claim to the truth and everything outside the thinking mind, even God, is doubted, would have been impossible. The Kantian categorical imperative, drawing out of one’s rational will alone a moral law that is binding to all humans, indispensable to the modern constitutional state and the idea that Europeans can think for themselves the moral content of their laws without blindly following the dictates of unquestioned traditions, would have been impossible.

Holding the radical European subject responsible for the evaporation of any form of European collective identity is intrinsically a flawed argument, for it fails to understand that this radicalizing subject did produce as well a “counter-Enlightenment” which argued that there is no such thing as an isolated and disembodied self existing independently of any external presupposition, independently of naturally given forces and societal norms. This counter-Enlightenment “failed” because it sought to defeat outright Europe’s radical subject by resurrecting traditions, religious beliefs, and customs which had already been rejected by the European mind and could not be revived. The counter-Enlightenment correctly pointed out that individuals can never be absolutely abstracted from their communities of birth and that humans have a natural need to belong to communities that offer them meaning and direction even as they engage in rational pursuits. But they were wrong in insisting that Europeans should remain within the spirit of their “positive” institutions and age-old traditions.

Meanwhile a liberal-socialist line of criticism gradually came to dominate European politics because in the same vein that it condemned the purely formal nature of “bourgeois individualism” and called for nurturing communities, it employed the logic of the radicalizing subject against the eradication of all “bourgeois” forms of authority, capitalist and patriarchal structures. This line pointed to the ways in which individuals were still “situated” within oppressive social structures, at the same time that it effectively argued that humans do have a need for membership in communities.

Whereas conservatives were unable to articulate a philosophy that would accommodate both the uniquely European subject and the need for community, socialists persuasively argued that individual freedom is important but that this freedom can only be actualized within a community that nurtures everyone’s individuality rather than the individuality of a privileged class, race, and sex. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, liberal socialists found multiple ways in which to defend progressive institutions and practices as expressions of the democratic will of individuals self-consciously legislating ideas and norms based on universal criteria. More recently, in the post-WW II era, there was Jurgen Habermas’s highly influential argument that the Enlightenment project should be radicalized as long as it was shown that Western societies depended, not on norms validated by isolated individuals, but on norms validated through “intersubjective” democratic communication without coercion. In conceiving progressive politics in relation to intersubjective cooperation and validation, Habermas was thus seen to be offering a freely established rational defence of progressive communities. While Leftists were seen as reasonably capable of offering good arguments to justify their new communities as “morally truthful” in the face of criticism, conservatives were seen as backward reactionaries incapable of handling the progressive dynamic of Western history and the independent mindedness of young Europeans.

In the last few decades, liberal socialists even got away advocating a liberal form of multicultural communitarianism sympathetic to the traditional values of non-European immigrants while being explicitly against European traditions. Whites were told that their culture had to be decoupled from their nation state and that culture would be a matter of individual choice within a nation state that was newly identified as a multicultural community within which minorities would enjoy group rights to overcome the oppressive leftovers of a still prevailing White supremacist form of communitarianism. Immigration restrictions against non-Whites would have to be eliminated and Western nations would have to open their borders to full diversification. Whites would enjoy individual rights combined with government-financed progressive communities, at the same time that their nations would legally enact multicultural rights for minorities.

The academic liberal establishment, along with the “new” conservatives, the progressive conservatives, would successfully endorse this vision of multiculturalism and racial diversity as a solution to the two seemingly incompatible images of “man” harboured in post-Enlightenment Europe, one of human beings “naturally” seeking to be free from all coercive external authorities, and another of human beings “naturally” in need of communitarian bonds. They promised the biggest community of all, for humanity, a progressive community without outsideness in which the US versus Them division would be abolished.

White Identitarians should not counter Leftist success by calling for a reversal of the unique way in which Europeans are self-constituting individuals in awareness of their situatedness. Modernity, the rational understanding  of nature, would have been impossible without a clear awareness of the distinction between subject and object, the rational and the affective, the scientific and the religious. To this day non-Europeans have a hard time making a distinction between the inner world of the individual and the world surrounding them. Richard Nisbett’s The Geography of  Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why (2004) is a study of how East Asians are more embedded to their surroundings, the natural world around them, the norms, rules, and habits of their society, which they follow without critical reflection, and so their reasoning has less autonomy. Leftists admire this Asian communitarian way of thinking without realizing that their politics has been possible only in a Western setting. The same leftists who are tolerant of non-Europeans forms of collectivism despise any White communitarianism that is not dedicated to progressivism.

The counter-Enlightenment drew on the “organic” medieval tradition and the ancient Greek ideal that the highest form of individuality could only be attained within the city-state in a public life. The ancient Greeks lacked the modern conception of individualism; while they did discover the mind as an entity separate from the appetites and the spirited side associated with indignation and pride, they experienced their selfhood only as members of city-states and never as private individuals with a conscience of their own in distinction to the accepted norms of the public realm. (Mind you, Hegel saw in Socrates the first act of an individual with a moral conscience distancing himself from the pre-given norms of the city-state). The ancient Greeks also saw themselves as one with a meaningful teleological cosmos, in distinction to the sharp Cartesian separation between mind and matter. The ancient Greeks did no value the privacy of the individual, and did not have a modern theory of natural rights pertaining to each individual. They did not value as much the bourgeois desire for security and prosperity; but postulated perfect natural laws and Forms, existing outside humans, according to which humans should model their lives, in the actualization of their potentialities. The counter-Enlightenment of the 1800s erred in believing that European man could return to this ancient (and medieval) unity, since European man in the 1800s had already transcended the prereflective values and institutions of those times. It is my view that Hegel offered a very strong argument reconciling Europe’s radicalizing subject with communitarian values within a nationalist state that recognizes both the negative liberties of individuals and the need for collective values.

Hegelian Reconciliation of “Libertarian” and “Collectivist” Freedom

“The Germanic Spirit is the Spirit of Freedom”


Paleo-conservatives, Traditionalists, Alain de Benoist and the European New Right, are wrong in condemning Western individualism and in calling for some return to ancient Greek ideals of “social” freedom, or feudal “organic” values, or for a “traditionalism” that is inherently illiberal in the manner of non-Europeans. There is much to be learned from these schools in their emphasis on the natural inequalities of nature, their valuing of the wisdom attained by past ages, the Aristotelian virtues, their respect for order and traditions. But there is no returning back from a European subject “confident that for it there can be no insuperable barrier…[from a subject that] opposes the world to itself, makes itself free of it, but in turn annuls this opposition, takes its Other, the manifold, back into itself, into its unitary nature” [10]. Nature is not generated out of the willing of the subject, but whatever exists is mere appearance or dogma unless there is a subject who has freed itself from the external world through the use of concepts, explanations, and technology. There is no way out of European modern consciousness. There are no laws of nature, Darwinian drives, that can be seen to determine, on their own, blindly, what a European is or should do. These laws have been uncovered by Europeans, and so the outside is no longer an alien other, but part of the European subject’s identity, as a conscious being that is capable of employing the laws of nature for his own purposes and genetically altering his own nature. The same is true of human laws. We can’t obey natural laws, natural rights, or any law that is said to be “divinely ordained” or in “accord with nature” independently of the judgments of European men.

While I credit the prehistoric Indo-European aristocracies with originating individualism, and welcome the limitations imposed by feudal aristocracies against despotic powers throughout ancient and medieval times, White Identitarians should be wary of calling for a return of aristocratic rule in our modern age. We should welcome the political freedom and the equal rights of the citoyens sanctioned by the French Revolution. By modern times, the aristocracies of Europe had become parasitic courtiers, and were understandably replaced by bourgeois elites calling for representative institutions. Contemporary European nations should not accord superior rights and privileges to any European social class.

In my judgement, Hegel is the one modern thinker who offers the most adequate theoretical framework for the reconciliation of our individualism and our communitarian needs. The multicultural “reconciliation” of the left was imposed from above by hostile elites against the prejudices of European peoples, against their own ways of life, their own communities, and their own (rationally-approved) in-group preferences. The communitarianism of Hegel, however, recognizes i) the substantial unity of the traditional family, ii) the private sphere of markets and the world of civil society, in which individuals enjoy “negative liberties” (private freedoms) to pursue their own lifestyle, as well as iii) a state, which expresses the general will and constitutes the sphere in charge of ensuring the “social freedom” of citizens, legislation and execution in accord with the “shared” values of the community, and constitutional liberal principles. Hegel specifically set out to solve the problem of how the growth of individuals who had subjected all traditional collectivities to the judgements of critical reason could create public institutions and a nation state that would make possible the central value of private freedom while ensuring that the nation would express the collective identity of the people, would embody their general will, and the national interest of the citizens as a group.

There is no space here to get into a long textual disquisition about Hegel’s political philosophy. Suffice it to say that Hegel’s basic argument is that freedom has both a “private”, subjective or “libertarian” component, and a public, objective or collective component. Liberalism today tends to be defined by conservatives with free markets, formal equality before the law, and private enjoyment of life’s goods. These private freedoms are known as “negative liberties” in that they don’t require anything from the public other than laws guaranteeing the security of private contracts and associations. The collective social freedoms are identified by leftists today with “social rights,” equality of opportunity, welfare provisions, the removal of all “socially constructed” differences between men and women and races. Getting to the true aims of Hegel is very difficult because politically correct academics have forced onto him ideas that portray his collectivism in socialistic terms, at the same time that they have suppressed his rationally reflected traditionalism and nationalism. They have put forth a Hegel that views “social rights” as rights for greater equality, a Hegel that synthesizes the atomism of free markets and private rights, with a state that ensures social rights for everyone and promotes the “collective economic good” of society.

It is true that Hegel argued (correctly) that being recognized as a citizen while living in abject poverty was a violation of individual self-expression, insomuch as this was a result of the actions of powerful citizens having complete freedom of contract without any social rights protecting workers in the form of state regulation of working conditions. But there is a lot more to Hegel’s concept of social freedom. When Hegel writes about a shared conception of the good, when he says that individuals enjoying their negative freedoms in the private sphere can be capable of embracing the social freedom of the state, that is, experience the ends of the state as integral to their own selfhood as modern rational citizens, he does not mean economic goods only; he means as well the cultural collective goods and sense of peoplehood (Volk) that can be guaranteed only by a national state. Hegel indeed appeals to the idea of national identity as the clue that can tie otherwise rational private citizens by virtue of their belonging, through birth and ethnicity, to a single culture.

Current interpreters of Hegel, notwithstanding the merits of their works in organizing and clarifying Hegel’s extremely difficult ideas, rarely mention or willfully misread Hegel’s emphasis on national identity [11]. Frederick Neuhouser, for example, argues that Hegel could not have appealed to a sense of national belonging “akin to bonds of brotherhood” since such bonds would be rooted in a “prereflective attachment,” which is supposedly inconsistent with a post-Enlightenment culture in which individuals accept only communitarian identities that are “consciously endorsed through a process of public reflection on the common good” [12]. Since it is a pervasive inclination of our times to argue that Western nations must be based on values alone, and since the dominant interpretation of Hegel today is that he was a liberal socialist, academics have happily deluded themselves into believing that the act of consciously subjecting our laws, customs and beliefs, to rational debate, approval by reason, automatically negates the actual biological realities of human bonding, “the bonds of nature.” But this is wishful thinking inconsistent with a free thinking subject.

For starters, Neuhouser well knows that the “bonds of love” that unite Western families are not purely “free” and “rational” even as the union of husband and wife was freely decided rather than coerced by unreflective customs. There is a strong natural bond between parents and children and between men and women as sexual beings who can reproduce children, not to mention the multiple customs that regulate the marriage ceremony and child-rearing. There is also a strong natural (but no longer prereflective) bond uniting people with the same historical ancestry, territorial roots, and language within one nation. This bond is consistent with a rationally free subject on two levels. Firstly, history teaches that those states possessing a high degree of ethnic homogeneity, where ancestors had lived for generations — England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark — were the ones with the strongest liberal traits, constitutions and institutions. Before immigration restrictions were eliminated starting in the 1960s, the very rationally oriented nation states of the West were reserved for people of similar ethnic and religious identities.

Secondly, and contrary to our current misreading of Hegel, the subjection of “pre-reflective bonds” to rational examination does not necessarily entail the cultural Marxist idea that everything is “socially constructed” or that only “propositional values” can be said to be acceptable as the uniting bonds of a nation. Thinking critically about “prereflective bonds” means that these bonds can no longer be seen as unknowable, mysterious forces that control the affairs of men; it means that we now know their nature, that we can explain why we individuals tend to be attached to people of their own ethnicity and historical lineage. It means that we have rationally explained studies about in-group attachments, biological dispositions, and genetic determinants [13]. It means that we can see that leftist communitarians are deceivers, that the cosmopolitan universal values our current elites advocate are not rationally based, but have been concocted by rootless cosmopolitan academics and politicians engage in the deliberate misreading of the great thinkers of the past to promote the insane idea that European ethnic identity is inherently violent and exclusionary, even though only Europeans are responsible for modernity and even though there is now substantial evidence showing that humans are genetically inclined to prefer their own ethnic in-group and that diversity is coming with an incredible cost in the form of systematic rapes, social disunity, suppression of rational debate, illiberal controls, and economic/environmental costs.


[1] Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks. The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization (1999), pp. 5-6.

[2] Jurgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (1979), p. 77.

[3] Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind. The Greek Origins of European Thought (1953), pp. 32, 28.

[4] Ibid., pp. 47-8.

[5] E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art (1950), pp. 55,72.

[6] Peter Osier, ed., The History of Western Sculpture (2016), p. 40.

[7] Aaron Gurevich, The Origins of European Individualism (1995), p. 16.

[8] Henry Osborne Taylor, The Medieval Mind: A History of the Development of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages, Vol. 1 (1919), pp. 138-168.

[9] Alexander Dugin (2012). The Fourth Political Theory (2012), pp. 18, 74.

[10] Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind. Being Part Three of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences [1830]. Trans. William Wallace (1972) p. 45.

[11] See Dominico Losurdo, Hegel and the Freedom of the Moderns (Duke University Press, 2004); Frederick Neuhouser, Foundation of Hegel’s Social Theory (Harvard University Press, 2000); Fred Dallmayr, G.W.F Hegel: Modernity and Politics (SAGE Publications, 1993); and Shlomo Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State (Cambridge University Press, 1972).

[12] Frederick Neuhouser, p. 138.

[13] I am taking Hegelian reason as far as possible while aware that we ultimately don’t know why the universe exists in the first place; why there is being instead of nothing. There are limits to reason, but Europeans today can speak rationally about these limits and what’s beyond reason.

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